" ǝʌıʇɔǝdsɹǝd ɹǝɥʇouɐ ɯoɹɟ sƃuıɥʇ ǝǝs oʇ ǝʌol ı "
Derek is a perpetual wanderer, cultural enthusiast, and lifelong traveler. He loves going places where he does not speak a word of the local language and must communicate with hand gestures, as well as places where he is forced to squat awkwardly to poo (supposedly its healthier and more efficient). Say Hello On Twitter!
Houston is a vibrant city with plenty of fun sights and excursions to entertain both American and foreign tourists. From sports games to shows to nightlife, there is something for everyone in 'Space City', a nickname the city earned because of the NASA research center. The city is great for last-minute travelers on a budget. Here are some tips for a successful trip to Houston.
There are plenty of transportation options around Houston, most predominantly the METRO bus system. Their 1,200 buses cover every part of town that you want to visit (as well as some you wouldn't). Another option is the METRORail, which although it only has one line does manage to run right through the heart of the city. Finally there are taxis, useful for short trips or if the weather is foul, but certainly not the most cost-effective option for long distance journeys.
Houston has no shortage of hotels to choose from and many of them cater to budget-conscious travelers. One of my personal favorites is Comfort Inn Southwest Parkway. Not only is it conveniently located and accessible via public transportation, but a stay here won't break the bank. You can also find a much more extensive list of cheap hotels in Houston on Hipmunk. Airbnb has plenty of options as well, most of which are geared toward groups or families as opposed to individuals.
Depending upon the time of year, Houston has a variety of annual events. These include the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, which is open every year in February and March, and iFest, an art and music festival held every April. However, the pinnacle is the Houston Art Car Parade, an event that must be seen firsthand to truly believe. It is exactly as it sounds: fully functioning cars and motorcycles turned into decadent works of art. And the best part? It's completely free!
Excursiopedia also provides themed tours of Houston. Consider touring one of the many museums, over a dozen of which are free year-round. Several others offer free entry days once a week.
The sport lovers will be happy to know that Houston has several major teams. First and foremost are the Houston Texans, a football team in the AFC Southern Division. For basketball lovers the Houston Rockets are very well-known team that has had some great players through the years. And of course we cannot forget the Houston Astros, the city's baseball team. Whichever sport you prefer, be sure to check ScoreBig for cheap tickets.
Or if theatre is more your thing then you'll be happy to know that the city has so many theatres it actually has a theatre district located downtown.
Of course there are also plenty of other theatres scattered around town. Ultimately, regardless of when you visit Houston or where you stay while there, budget is of little concern if you plan ahead. If you have any questions than feel free to ask me.
As a writer for Hipmunk, many of my city guides from around the world have been published there, including my overview of hotels and attractions near Rice University. Be sure to give it a read before your trip!
Phuket is Thailand's largest island and an incredibly popular tourist destination. There is so much to see and do there that often visitors get overwhelmed and miss some of the best opportunities. From sports to excursions to local cuisine, there is plenty to do beyond the beaches. Truly Phuket is one destination that does not disappoint. Here is what not to miss during your next vacation to this beautiful island.
Thai food is one of the most well known -- and loved -- of all Asian cuisines. It can be found in countries around the world, however nothing quite beats the authentic taste that can only be found in Thailand. While in Phuket make sure to take a Thai cooking class. After a morning stop at the local market for fresh ingredients its off to the kitchen to begin learning the tricks of the trade. And the best part? At the end of the day you get to indulge in all the decadent dishes you have made.
If cooking isn't your thing or you just want food without the wait, trust the locals. One of their favorite places -- and mine now too -- is Bentley's Soup (or as it is known in Thai, โก้เบนซ์ เกาเหลาเลือดหมู). Not only is the food to die for but the restaurant is open until 2:30am, making it a perfect destination for those midnight munchies. Deciding what you want may be a bit difficult, as the menu is only in Thai, however, if all else fails, just point to what you want then get ready to leave full and happy.
Watching a Muay Thai match on television is nowhere near as exciting as seeing one in real life. Kickboxing is Thailand's preeminent sport and those guys really know how to fight. Unlike the often choreographed wrestling in the western world, Mauy Thai is known as "the art of eight limbs" and after witnessing a match firsthand you will understand why. There are matches every Friday night at Suwit Boxing Stadium, with the amateurs going first as they gradually work up to the main event.
For the best view of Phuket Town take a drive (or taxi) up to the Khao Rang Hill View Point. This is the perfect vantage point to practice your photography. Not only is the view spectacular but there are also several restaurants serving delicious food at great prices. It is also a popular destination for watching the sunset or indulging in a romantic dinner.
Koh Phi Phi first gained international attention after the release of The Beach, most of which was filmed on the island. Nowadays this small archipelago is on every tourists' list and as such there are no shortage of travel agencies willing to take you there. The islands are perfect for a day trip and offer amazing swimming or diving experiences.
Don't all of us have a place that we have always wanted to visit, that thing we always wanted to do, that little dream? Why wait for tomorrow to fulfill those wishes? There is a universe full of beauty around us, waiting to be seen. Here are some of the most beautiful places in the world that you just can't miss in this lifetime.
Greece is a beautiful place, a mix of ancient beauty both tamed and untamed with a past full of mystery, mythology and magic. With a vivid culture, breathtaking views and magnificent history, this is one holiday you will never forget.
Travel to a different world in this city which takes you into a bygone era. A spectacle of grand architecture with a glorious history offset by piazzas, mouthwatering food and cool gelato, Rome provides an idyllic quaint charm unmatched by any other.
Described by poets as "a pearl set in emeralds," this fortress, originally built in the 9th century is a truly exquisite gem of Islamic architecture. Visit this palace that has witnessed centuries pass by to hear the walls whisper tales of eras past.
Feel the thrill of walking the halls once open only to the Kings favored men. See the history and the tales of ancient China come alive before your eyes. Sinning has never been more tempting.
The holiest Buddhist pagoda, this ancient shrine embodies beauty, serenity and joy. Visit it to experience the divine connection and to appreciate an exquisite piece of architecture and beauty.
The Egyptian pyramids are architectural marvels that need no introduction. Egypt however is home to several other exquisite monuments of days past. Let the fantastic tales of Egyptian mythology mesmerize you as you pay a visit to the country where men were once gods.
The ultimate word in luxury and excess, the Palace of Versailles is a fantasy palace brought to life. With its unparalleled grandeur and incredible architecture, this will definitely be the most impressive palace you will ever see.
An unbelievable feat of architecture, this wall is like no other you have ever seen. Winding its way over the globe, and visible from the moon, gazing at the wall at twilight is an experience you will never forget.
Those who love retail therapy will find this ancient market a dream come true. One of the largest and oldest markets in the world, this marketplace is a beautiful monument all on its own. Soak in the atmosphere, and come back with an unforgettable experience and lighter wallets.
An old imperial city of Morocco called The Red City, Marrakesh oozes a character and charm unlike any other. Brimming with palaces, monuments, museums and souks, you will be hard pressed to decide on an itinerary for your visit.
A natural formation, the Grand Canyon is wild, untamed and breathtakingly beautiful. An awe-inspiring and spiritual experience, this is something that will stay with you forever.
Britain's greatest prehistoric icon, Stonehenge projects an aura of intrigue, power and endurance. The awe-inspiring mysterious ring of stones dated approximately 5000 years ago still continues to mesmerize visitors with their spartan beauty amidst their lush surroundings.
A city that breathes lives and personifies romance, Venice is a must in every traveler’s wish list. From dreamy gondola rides along the Grand Canal to checking out artistic masterpieces & charming palatial palazzos along with sampling authentic venetian cuisine & aperitivios, there is never a dull moment in this city.
Peru's most-visited site, Machu Picchu is one of the new Seven Wonders of the World. Dating to the mid-1400s, this lost city of the Incas is an architectural marvel. Perched on a high plateau, deep in the Amazonian jungle, this is a perfect destination for a long hike.
This Czechoslovakian jewel attracts tourists in droves with its bohemian allure and fairytale atmosphere. Tired of sitting around beaches, doing nothing? Welcome on board. You can have the time of your life exploring old castles, museums, and strolling around charming, quaint streets, seeing the local Attractions. Refresh yourself with a scrumptious repast at a classic Czech tavern, and visit the famous pubs to party like never before.
You just can't end this list without including Dubai, the ultimate luxury destination. Embodying opulence, magnificence and eccentricity, Dubai is a man made miracle that is a visual feast. Pamper yourself at some of the most lavish resorts in the world, indulge in tax free mega shopping, embark on grand desert safaris< and experience the rich Arabic culture and cuisine.
Do you find traditional hotels and resorts uninteresting when out on a vacation? Avid adventurists and nature lovers will say ‘yes’ to this question, and this attitude is the reason why the camping culture around the world is on rise. Camps help you to experience nature at close quarters. Be it on mountains, in deserts or be on beaches, camping is an ideal way of exploring the beauty of nature. India and its diverse geography offer a variety of camping sites where you can spend the night under a moonlit sky, sitting with your friends around a bonfire enjoying the beauty of nature. HoliDaze picks from the top camping sites in India include:
Nestled in the foothills of the Himalayas, Rishikesh is a tourist place with deep spiritual connection where tons of adventures await. The place is one of the most sought after camping sites due to its awesome natural beauty and various adventure destinations. Living by the banks of the River Ganga is a great experience for anyone. July to September is the best time for enjoying camping in Rishikesh and perfect for adventure lovers.
Located in the Trans-Himalayan belt of Himachal Pradesh, Spiti Valley is described as “a world within a world” by the famous English poet Rudyard Kipling. Camping here gives you a wonderful opportunity to get close to nature and explore this stunning valley. Spiti Valley is also a well-known adventure destination amongst Indians but has yet to truly catch on with foreign tourists -- all the more reason to visit now, before it does! Camping here in May or June gives you relief from the heat of late summer.
Adventure lovers and campers gather in Mussoorie to enjoy the thrills of camping and return home with memorable experiences. You will feel like you are in a different world soaking in the splendid views of the white capped Himalayan peaks from the comfort of your camps. Mussoorie, also known as the gateway to Gangotri and Yamunotri shrines, is the favorite spot of trekkers due to its rugged terrains and scenic beauty. March to June is the ideal time for enjoying camping in Mussoorie.
Camping near to the Sam Sand Dunes in Jaisalmer gives you the opportunity to enjoy local Rajasthani food, cultural dances and more. The camps are lit by Mashaals and campfire to provide a truly royal feel of the bygone era. If you are yet not satisfied, watching stars at night from the deserts of golden city is an experience of a lifetime. You can also enjoy camel safaris in Jaisalmer. Needless to say, winter is the best season to enjoy camping here.
Camping is truly an exciting experience in the land of high passes. Enfolded by the arid mountains, Ladakh offers a variety of camping sites for campers of all types. The banks of Pangong and Tsomoriri lakes are ideal camping sites where you can explore the beauty of Ladakh. Of course some other travelers prefer camping in Markha Valley, another favorite destination among trekkers. July and August are the best months to enjoy camping in Ladakh.
Also dubbed as ‘the lake of moon’, Chandertal Lake is an ideal camping site. Located at an elevation of 4300m (14,107 ft) in Lahaul and Spiti Valley, Chandertal Lake offers you a great camping experience right in the lap of nature. A stay in the camps here will surely mesmerize you and bewilder your senses. However, altitude sickness may be an issue.
Known for its beautiful beaches, Goa offers campers a variety of camping sites. Spending a night at a camp on one of the Goa’s most popular camping locations allows you to experience the happening culture and nightlife of Goa. Agonda beach, Ashwem beach, and Anjuna beach are a few of the best camping sites here. You will get to experience something new with a beach party while camping in Goa. And be honest, who doesn't love beach parties?
Arguably the best way to enjoy the serenity of nature, camping is one of the best outdoor activities that anyone can enjoy without intense training or practice. It allows you to escape the city and modern life, and provides an opportunity to explore the unexplored countryside. The next time you are in India, be sure to take some time off the beaten tourist trail to enjoy a little camping.
Houston, Texas, is a humongous city that often overwhelms visitors and leaves them uncertain where to go, what to eat and what to see. Luckily, as a native Texan, I've spent a great deal of time exploring the city and finding some of the most unique, hidden, offbeat and off the beaten path destinations — some of which not even local residents know about.
Museums related to our own mortality are always intriguing, despite sometimes being a bit macabre. All that aside, this is one of the most captivating and engrossing museums I have ever visited. From the history of embalming to an entire collection of hearses to a coffin built for three, you really never know what to expect around the next corner.
The late John Milkovisch was confronted with a conundrum. His house needed to be painted, but he didn't want to do it. His solution? Cover the entire thing with over 50,000 beer cans. He started in 1968 and didn't finish until 15 years later. While the place is definitely quirky and a must-visit for any beer enthusiast, one can only assume that Mr. Milkovisch must have passed away from cirrhosis of the liver.
Located just outside of Houston in Sugar Land, this magnificent Hindu temple seems out of place, as if it has been transplanted here from somewhere in India or Southeast Asia. In fact, it is the first traditional Hindu temple in the United States. Be sure to come hungry as the food here is the best and most authentic Indian food in all of Houston. For visitors unfamiliar with visiting religious sites such as this, please do not forget to take off your shoes before entering.
If you are a fan of Thai food then this little restaurant should not be missed. It is a favorite of local Houstonians who all know their favorite dishes by the letter and number combination, such as H5 or S11. The original owner of this restaurant is lovingly referred to as the Thai Soup Nazi (a reference to the Seinfeld episode about the Soup Nazi); however, he passed away in 2010. Luckily, the restaurant remains relatively unchanged and the food is still as delicious as ever. Plus, it is BYOB so how can you go wrong.
From the mid-1950s until his death in 1980, local Houston postal worker Jeff McKissack created this impressive monument to honor his favorite fruit, the orange. It covers an impressive 3,000 square feet and will suck you in from the moment you begin walking along the maze of pathways. Nowadays, it has become a folk art favorite not just of local Houston residents but art lovers across the entire USA.
There are few things more gorgeous than fresh snowfall that has yet to be broken by tracks or the twinkling of a thousand stars on a cold, cloudless night. And nothing is more fun in this winter wonderland then gliding down a mountain slope on skies or tearing across the fresh snow on a snowmobile.
Before beginning to traveling the farthest corners of the globe I started in my own backyard and few states impressed me as much as Montana during the winter. Not only is it gorgeous but it's also a playground for grown-ups, a chance to once again feel like a carefree kid with no responsibilities. It is also an amazing family destination because it is fun for all ages.
Two years ago while passing through Montana I had my first experience with winter glamping and no other glamping experience since has come close. It's hard to even convey how amazing it is to spend the day outside, bundled up against the low temperatures and frolicking around like a kid, only to come inside from the cold and instantly be transported to warm, safe haven where a nice glass of German Riesling and a warm fire await.
Glamping is still a relatively new vacation option yet it is one that has quickly become popular in many countries around the world. It is, as the name suggests, glamorous camping and no other form of camping compares. Imagine a tent, yurt or other semi-permanent structure that is so elaborately furnished and stocked with modern technological conveniences that it is hard to even believe it isn't a luxurious cabin. Now that is glamping.
Arguably the most popular of all winter spots, Montana is well-known for it's amazing skiing. What the states lacks in population it makes up for in mountains and they come alive during the cool weather months. Whether beginner or expert there is something for everyone in this great state.
Picture a pristine frozen lake...and now imagine you whisking across it on skates, spelling out your name in cursive letters or doing figure eights. Ice-skating is my favorite of all winter sports and as most of you know how clumsy I am, it should go without saying that I don't injure myself nearly as much on the ice as I do while skiing.
Whether you prefer hitting the snow on a gasoline powered beast of a machine or comfortably sailing across it on a horse-drawn sleigh, both offer a relaxing and refreshing way to enjoy the winter wonderland.
Of course there are plenty of other winter activities to partake in, especially if you stay somewhere that will cater to your every whim, such as The Ranch at Rock Creek. This includes winter paintballing, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing, sledding for the kids and pistol or rifle shooting for the adults.
Tempted to try glamping, either as a family or as a romantic getaway for two? The Ranch has you covered! Of course if you still are not sold on that idea, they also have private log homes and a more traditional iconic lodge. Whichever you decide just know that the possibilities for wintertime fun are endless. This year make your winter vacation an unforgettable one at The Ranch at Rock Creek!
Austin, Texas is known as the live music capital of the world and for good reason. Regardless of the time of year there are always an abundance of amazing shows to catch. The next time you are visiting Austin be sure to check out these venues:
An Austin staple for over fifty years, the Continental Club has been graced by countless famous musicians, including Stevie Ray Vaughn and Hank Williams. When it first opened the Club was BYOB and within a couple years it was the first venue in town to sell liquor by the drink. Although it was briefly a burlesque club during the 1960's, nowadays the Continental Club is fun for all ages.
This small, intimate pub is one of the newer ones musical venues on this list but it has already earned it's place as an Austin musical staple. Live recordings are frequently done here and guests never know which celebrities might make a surprise appearance jamming on stage with local musicians.
This blue's club is one of the best known spots in Austin to catch both up-and-coming and well-known artists. Founded by the late Clifford Antone, mentor to Stevie Ray Vaughn and noteable musicians, there is no such thing as a bad show at Antone's.
Arguably most diverse venue on this list, the Mohawk is like no other. A favorite among the counter-culture crowd, both long-time Austinites and out of town visitors sweat by this bar. Although they do not serve any food, the famou food trucks East Side Pie's and Arlos can be found right out front and are the perfect way to grab a bite withou having to miss the music.
Spider House is a coffee bar and cafe rolled into one that has been a favorite among Austin locals since it opened in 1995. The place has a uniquly Austin vibe and is definitely one of those locations keeping Austin weird. Their two outdoor stages are graced by talented local artists on a nightly basis.
Unlike the other items on this list, SXSW is not a venue but rather an annual week-long musical experience. Every year in March thousands of bands from around the world flock to the city and can be found jamming on every stage and street corner in downtown. Although the vast majority of the shows are free, the biggest ones featuring the most well-known performers usually require an SXSW wristband. Of course attendees should always be on the lookout for last-minute suprise shows featuring headliners that are announced via social media and free for those who are "in the know" and can make it there in time.
Of course these are but a fraction of the amazing places in Austin to find great music -- the city does not disappoint. Feel free to contact me if you have any further questions, Austin is my hometown and music is in my blood. Rock on!
South Padre Island may be small, but it packs abundant sights and activities to ensure visitors have a remarkable vacation. While the crowds flock to the well-known attractions, break free from the masses and experience the island's best hidden gems. This is South Padre Island off the beaten path:
One of the newest water-based activities that few know about is fly boarding. Fly boarding featured in various movies over the last couple years, and now is available for public enjoyment. Think of it like a jetpack that runs on water rather than gasoline. Attached to a jet ski, water feeds up to it through a large tube before expelling down with enough velocity to propel the jetpack wearer up into the air.
Andy Bowie is possibly the most overlooked beach on South Padre, and is great way to escape the crowds. A modest $5 parking fee is all you need to drive down to the water's edge and pitch your beach chairs and umbrella, or even a tent. The park also has rest rooms, showers, and a concession stand that will satisfy anyone who forgot his or her snacks, sunscreen, or bottled water at home.
Seafood on the gulf is so fresh and tasty you would think the server delivered it straight from the water to your plate. Of course, eating mere fish is routine. Devouring your way through a crawfish boil is a whole different kind of finger-licking goodness. Here's a little-known secret: every weekend Parrot Eyes Restaurant Bar has a crawfish boil. It's not found on their menu, but they advertise occasionally in Padre magazine. Word to the wise: don't make any plans for the remainder of the day, as a belly full of their delicious boiled crawfish might be enough to send you back to bed!
This non-profit organization is doing all it can to educate both locals and visitors on the birds, fauna, flora, and overall environment of not just South Padre Island but all the Gulf of Mexico. Besides the boardwalks and bird blinds, one of the most rewarding aspects of a trip to the SPI Birding and Nature Center is the view from the top its five-story observation tower. This is the best place around to get a photograph of the island and the gulf from a unique vantage point.
Yes, this recently relocated Cajun restaurant is a favorite of locals and regular visitors alike to South Padre. Originating in 2003, "Dirty Al" and son Cameron, a culinary school graduate, and what some describe as the man behind the flavor, have perfected the art of how to make hungry guests' mouths salivate. Naturally, how to also keep them coming back for more. In fact they now own a half-dozen restaurants around the island. However the original is still (and always will be!) the best.
Of course these aren't all of South Padre Islands' hidden gems; not by a long shot. If you find yourself with a little free time, then go exploring and see what interesting sights and attractions you can discover. The island does not disappoint! Plus Hipmunk has plenty of cheap hotels in South Padre Island so you don't have to worry about breaking the bank just to have a little fun.
Instagram is a handy tool for travelers wishing to document their journey. Long gone are the days of buying disposable cameras or dropping off film at the developer. However the ease of this app can often be taken for granted. After all let's be honest: We've all seen some crappy IG photos.
When you do decide to share something on Instagram, make sure it is truly worthy of being shared. This infographic from dealchecker.co.uk demonstrates how you can capture the peripheral wonders of the cultures you are engrossed within to make the perfect holiday photo album, and churn your followers’ complexions green with envy. Taking the constant accessibility and features Instagram has to offer into consideration, these tips have been compiled into a foolproof list to make the most of the instrument in your pocket.
Graphic produced by dealchecker.co.uk
Do you love a swig of beer or a glass of wine? No, I'm not going to tell you to stop! In fact I'm most likely the one urging you to have another glass. Just don't drink the same thing on vacation that you would be at home -- try something new! Never heard of it? Sound strange? Just go for it!
Oh the stories I could tell of all the crazy local brews I've drank with locals around the world... ;)
Arak is the traditional beverage in Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine, Jordan, Israel and Turkey. The word ‘arak' means sweat in Arabic. Don't turn away from this alcoholic drink assuming it to be someone's sweat though. The drink is anise-flavored and diluted with water for consumption. The liquor is clear but upon dilution with water, it becomes milky. This is because anethole, the essential oil in anise, is insoluble in water. Adding ice causes the arak to form an unpleasant layer on the surface. If you order a bottle of arak, the waiter will usually serve it with several glasses as one does not drink arak in the same glass again due to the emulsification of the liquid. Arak is served with appetizers.
If you visit Greece, you must certainly try out their coffees and frappés. But don't forget to try out ouzo, the essentially Greek drink, along with a platter of olives, fries, fish and cheese. You will find it tastes of liquorice and is smoother than absinthe. Ouzo is generally flavored with anise or mint or coriander. Like arak, ouzo too becomes milky when mixed with water. For the same reason, adding ice to the drink is avoided. The Greeks use ouzo in many recipes and consider it to have healing properties due to the presence of anise.
Sake, a wine made of rice, is a traditional Japanese alcoholic beverage. The rice used to make sake differs from the normal rice that the Japanese eat. Sake comes in several varieties which are served at a range of temperatures. Though sake goes best with Japanese cuisine, you can enjoy the beverage with Chinese food too. Food that is flavored with herbs will also work well.
This is Brazil's national beverage. According to a survey, the country produces over a billion litres of cachaça annually but only 1% of it is exported. Fresh sugarcane juice is fermented and then distilled to make cachaça. Some types of rums are also made in the same way which is why cachaça is also referred to as Brazilian rum. The liquor may be consumed either aged or un-aged. Un-aged cachaça will come cheaper but do look for the dark and premium variety that is aged in wooden barrels. Caipirinha is a popular cocktail that includes cachaça as the main ingredient.
This Mexican distilled alcoholic beverage is much like tequila's cousin as they are both made from (different types of) agave plants. Mezcal is made from the maguey plant while tequila is made from the blue agave plant. Most of the mezcal produced by Mexico is made in a region called Oaxaca. A popular saying that you might get to hear is Para todo mal, mezcal, y para todo bien también, translated as, For everything bad, mezcal and for everything good, the same.
The drink might not seem inviting if you see larva in a bottle of mezcal, but many alcohol makers have embraced this age-old technique now. You can find mezcal without the larva too. You can relish it with sliced oranges dusted with ground chili, fried larvae and salt.
Don't forget to purchase a bottle or two as a souvenir if you really fall in love with the taste of any of these drinks. That way you will have a tale to tell your friends over a round of drinks too.